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Behavioural Science Section / Short Communication

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Stereotype Threat Lowers Older Adults' Self-Reported Hearing Abilities

Barber S.J. · Lee S.R.

Author affiliations

Department of Psychology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, Calif., USA

Corresponding Author

Sarah J. Barber

Department of Psychology

San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94132 (USA)

E-Mail barber@sfsu.edu

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Gerontology 2016;62:81-85

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Background: Although stereotype threat is a well-documented phenomenon, previous studies examining it in older adults have almost exclusively focused on objective cognitive outcomes. Considerably less attention has been paid to the impact of stereotype threat on older adults' subjective assessments of their own abilities or to the impact of stereotype threat in noncognitive domains. Objective: Older adults are stereotyped as having experienced not only cognitive declines, but physical declines as well. The current study tested the prediction that stereotype threat can negatively influence older adults' subjective hearing abilities. Methods: To test this, 115 adults (mean age 50.03 years, range 41-67) read either a positive or negative description about how aging affects hearing. All participants then answered a questionnaire in which they assessed their own hearing abilities. Results: The impact of stereotype threat on self-reported hearing was moderated by chronological age. Participants in their 40s and early 50s were unaffected by the stereotype threat manipulation. In contrast, participants in their late 50s and 60s rated their hearing as being subjectively worse when under stereotype threat. Conclusion: The current study provides a clear demonstration that stereotype threat negatively impacts older adults' subjective assessments of their own abilities. It is also the first study to demonstrate an effect of stereotype threat within the domain of hearing. These results have important implications for researchers investigating age-related hearing decline. Stereotype threat can lead to overestimation of the prevalence of age-related hearing decline. It can also serve as a confounding variable when examining the psychosocial correlates of hearing loss. Because of this, researchers studying age-related hearing loss should aim to provide a stereotype threat-free testing environment and also include assessments of stereotype threat within their studies.

© 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel

Article / Publication Details

First-Page Preview
Abstract of Behavioural Science Section / Short Communication

Received: May 31, 2015
Accepted: August 12, 2015
Published online: October 14, 2015
Issue release date: December 2015

Number of Print Pages: 5
Number of Figures: 1
Number of Tables: 1

ISSN: 0304-324X (Print)
eISSN: 1423-0003 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/GER

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